Tales from the Great Unwashed
I remember him as Goosey. Goosey Watt. His first name was Alan, but that
doesn't matter when you're wee. He used to cry a lot when we
were first in the primary, and no-one ever knew why. His hair was long,
long and curly, and it was all over the place. His nose was all squashed
to the one side, like he was looking at you through a wee window, and
it had a funny-looking bit, like a strip of pink skin down his lip from
his nose to his mouth, and when he closed his mouth it didn't shut
right, like a bit was away and you could see white tooth where there should
have been lip.
Goosey always sat at the desk right in front of the teacher, right from
year one. He was always there, on his own. Didn't matter what teacher
it was, if it was Budgie or Wally or Timpo or Barno, he was always there,
and even in different rooms, with different furniture and different light
coming in the room, there was Goosey, always at the front on his tod.
So, he was daft. That was it. He was daft and he didn't know anything
about sums or writing or singing or anything else. Didn't matter
what we were supposed to be doing, Goosey couldn't do it right, so
he'd get bored and start laughing at something he was thinking about,
or else starting doing mad drawings on his books and that. His wee brother
was in the next year down, and he was a right handful, so Goosey was always
getting called out by Headie to come and see whatever it was that Vinny
had done and try to calm him down and all that.
But Goosey was alright. Like, when I say alright, I mean he never ever
did anyone wrong that I saw anyway. He was always getting in fights and
that right enough, but it was usually the other guys from his bit that
would do him, and he always, I mean always got a doing. He never ever
won a fight, not even one. Not even against me.
I never knew all Goosey's mob, them from the scheme beside the school.
They were a bad lot, that's what the old dear said, you watch them
boys from the scheme, that's what she always said, almost every day.
But Goosey was alright. He liked fish. Tropical fish. He said his Granda
had a tank of fish and knew loads about them and had a stack of books
and that, and if you ever got him during a wet-playtime, Goosey would
use the crayons and that to draw some of these fish that he knew, and
you could even check them with the book at the back that had like pictures
of actual fish and that, so his drawings were pretty good I think, he
knew what they were. Least, that's what I think, cos they were never
the same as the pictures in the book, and if he was at it you would've
known cos they would be the same shape and colours and all that.
Anyway, we got to the end of the primary, that's maybe when we were
twelve or something, or most of us were twelve anyway, and it was all
this stuff about how we were getting sent up to the big school and we
would have to be ready and all that. Our teacher was old Barno. Mrs Barnes.
We didn't know what she was on about, but we already had all the
horror stories anyway. We knew about the gauntlet and the grog-pit and
all the other stuff. Just about everyone had a big brother or sister already
in the place, so we already knew all the names, all the danger.
So it came to the last day of primary seven. We could take games in cos
there was no classes, we just had to go in the morning and it would be
a prizegiving and then we could play games and that, games that we brought
in, and it was no uniforms either, you could wear your best gear and that.
Primary seven had like a greenhouse, or that's what we called it
anyway. It wasn't a real greenhouse such as you would call it, but
a bit of the shelf at the window that had like big polythene sheets down
about it so we could put plants in there for biology stuff, watching the
plants grow and that. There was a big tomato plant there and it was tiny
when it started, but we all had shots of putting water on it every morning,
just before we got the milk, and it shot up right enough. It was good
getting your turn to give it the water cos everyone would watch when you
did it, and it was like a test to see if you could pour the water right
and not give it too much cos Barno would shout when you did it too fast.
You had to do the other things in there as well at the same time, but
I can't remember what they were, all wee cactuses and geraniums and
So that was the last day of primary, like the very last day of primary
seven, then off to the big school and all that, and the prizegiving happened,
and that was your normal like countdown from one all the way down, and
Hammy was first, the best of all, as normal, so he went up to get like
a big giant book, like this big encyclopaedia type of thing, and then
it was Marty and he got this wee set of history books in a box, and that
looked a lot better than the first prize anyway, then there was Jules
and she got a token for the book-shop in town for a fiver, and we all
clapped and that, but we just really wanted to get out the games. I had
the Junior Scrabble with me, and it was split new as well, but there was
other folk had like Mouse Trap and Buckaroo and stuff, so I wasn't
that bothered about playing Scrabble, but we all wanted the games anyway,
so it was good when Barno said she was off to meet the other teachers
and she would be back in a wee while.
All of a sudden, she was back again. Maybe it was getting late, I can't
remember. Everybody had kind of split into bunches playing the best games,
but there was no bother, we all just moved about the class, sitting places
we'd never been before, getting into whatever games were going. There
was even some of the guys were sitting with the lassies. There was games
I never even knew before, like Autocross and Hyperlink, but when Barno
came in we all ran back to our normal seats without having to be told.
Barno was smiling. She hardly ever smiled. She looked different. Her eyes
were different. She looked the way my Dad looked when he came home late
on Fridays. The same smile, the same look. She said she would miss us
all and she hoped we would do well in the big school and not get in any
trouble and be a credit to the school and always remember where we came
from and all that. Then she said she had to present the special prize,
and we were all kind of looking at each other cos the prizegiving was
already done and that, but she told Hammy to take his pick of the tomatoes
off the big plant on the shelf, and Hammy went up a bit funny, not really
knowing what to do, and she told him again to pick the best tomato cos
he was the top of the class and all that, so we all watched him and he
pulled away this big fat scarlet tomato near the top of the bush. Then
it was Marty, and he did the same, and he picked like exactly the same
tomato that anybody else would have picked, like it was pure obvious to
anyone what the first and second best would be, then it was Jules and,
well, I think she missed the next best one, but she was dead fast and
grabbed this thing and off she went, then it was Pauline and Garbo and
somebody else and then eventually it was me, and the one I got was this
pure sad effort that was more green than red, and I knew I couldn't
even eat the thing or do anything else with it, and I was glad to get
back to my seat.
By the time Goosey got up to the plant there was nothing left but wee
green pellets. Some of the guys were having a laugh about it, but I think
most of us were sort of looking at each other, then at Barno. It was pretty
dodgy. I didn't feel right at all.
Goosey didn't even seem that bothered. He took his time. He was just
looking at this dozen or something berries that was left. You couldn't
pick a best out of that lot at all. He was facing away from all of us.
You could hear Barno breathing, and she wasn't smiling any more.
Then he did this wee mad dance, like shaking his bum dead fast for a wee
minute and waving his fingers like he was going to do a magic trick, then
he grabbed one wee green ball and yanked it off the plant and ran back
to his seat and we all clapped cos it was all over.
Barno went away again then, and we went back to playing the games, then
the bell went and we got our stuff and left the place for the last time.
We were walking away from the school, by the fence across from where our
class was, and someone looked back, and there was Barno standing at the
window of our room, staring out at us. Hammy and Marty and Gerso and Hingy,
they were all there, and so was Goosey. He was at the back, as usual.
Someone said, should we wave ? should we wave cheerio ? and we all stopped
and looked at her looking at us through the window. She was dead still,
dead sad looking, like she really didn't want us to go. Then you
could see her shape change dead fast at something, and we all looked round
and there was Goosey firing his pellet of a tomato at her. The wee hard
thing did hit the window, and Barno jerked back and down. The noise of
the thing hitting the window was dead loud, and you could even see the
glass wobble a bit but there was no smash.
Goosey ran like the clappers. We all shouted after him, but he never stopped.
See ye's after the Summer. That's what he shouted. But we never